Environmental Racism

A green future for Black America

While the person can be removed from the environmental hazard, the hazard cannot be removed from the person.  The concept of environmental racism was brought to the forefront by two separate cases where Black communities (Warren County, North Carolina and Houston, Texas) were identified as sites for hazardous waste.¹   In 1983, the United States Government General Accounting Office (GAO) investigated the correlation between the location of hazardous waste facilities along with the racial and economic composition of the selected communities.²   While Black Americans made up twenty percent of the population of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region IV (Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee), the GAO discovered that three of the four hazardous waste sites were in Black communities (≥ 50% black population).² In 1987, the United Church of Christ’s Racial Justice Commission concluded that race determined the location of hazard waste facilities throughout the nation.³ In addition, the authors discovered that approximately 15 million blacks lived in communities containing one or more toxic waste sites.³  

In 2007, Mohai and co-workers found that Black Americans were 20% of the total population that lived within one kilometer of a hazardous waste facility.⁴ The largest hazardous waste facility in the United States is located in Emelle, Alabama, a small town of approximately 53 residents (94% Black American). Lowndes County, Alabama (east of Emelle, Alabama and 74% Black American) is a town where residents suffer from hookworm (a gastrointestinal parasite) because they lack adequate sanitation systems and are exposed to raw sewage near their homes.⁵  Given the placement of hazardous waste facilities and toxic waste sites, the Biden-Harris administration must do the following

  • The Biden-Harris administration must increase funding and staffing within its Offices of Environmental Justice and Civil Rights to investigate all cases of Environmental Racism against Black Americans.

  • The Biden-Harris administration must regulate and hold accountable corporations and municipalities that, through direct action and/or negligence, create environmental conditions that disproportionately poison Black communities. 

  • The Biden-Harris administration must raise awareness about the hazardous conditions in these communities and provide relocation packages for Black families who wish to move into environmentally-safe neighborhoods.

In 2012, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reduced the threshold for monitoring of blood lead levels (BLL) from 10 micrograms per deciliter to 5 micrograms per deciliter;⁶  however, the CDC acknowledged that any amount of lead exposure can cause adverse effects. Adults who have blood levels less than the threshold are still at an increased risk for decreased kidney function, and fetal growth can be impacted by mothers with BLL less than the threshold.⁷  In addition, children with BLL less than the threshold are at an increased risk for attention-related behavior problems, anti-social problem behaviors, lower academic achievement, decreased IQ, and reductions in specific cognitive measures.⁷ Using tooth matrix biomarkers, the researchers discovered that during the second and third trimesters, Black American children had 2.2 times the level of led as non-Hispanic white children and during the first year of life, Black American children had 1.9 times the level of lead as non-Hispanic whites.⁸   After three years of age, Black children are found to have higher rates of lead than white children who are one year-old (considered the age where blood lead levels are at their peak).⁹  Thus, many generations can be damaged by lead exposure.  We call on the Biden-Harris administration to do the following:

  • Invest in a multi-pronged, multi-generational approach which consists of removing lead paint from the homes of older buildings; treating the medical problems that result from continuous lead exposure; and providing therapeutic interventions to correct for cognitive impairments due to lead exposure.  


  1. Bullard, Robert D. “Environmental Justice in the 21st Century: Race Still Matters.” Phylon (1960-) 49, no. 3/4 (2001): 151-71.

  1. United States General Accounting Office. “Siting of Hazardous Waste Landfills and Their Correlation with Racial and Economic Status of Surrounding Communities.” edited by Community Resources, and Economic Development 25: Government Printing Office, 1983.

  1. United Church of, Christ, and Commission for Racial Justice. Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States : A National Report on the Racial and Socio-Economic Characteristics of Communities with Hazardous Waste Sites [in English].  New York, N.Y.: Public Data Access : Inquiries to the Commission, 1987.

  1. Mohai, Paul. “Chapter 3: Racial and Socioeconomic Disparities in the Distribution of Environmental Hazards.” In Toxic Waste and Race at Twenty, edited by Robert Bullard, Paul Mohai, Robin Saha and Beverly Wright, 11: United Church of Christ 2007.

  1. McKenna, M. L., S. McAtee, P. E. Bryan, R. Jeun, T. Ward, J. Kraus, M. E. Bottazzi, et al. “Human Intestinal Parasite Burden and Poor Sanitation in Rural Alabama.” [In eng]. Am J Trop Med Hyg 97, no. 5 (Nov 2017): 1623-28.

  1. Burns, Mackenzie S., and Shawn L. Gerstenberger. “Implications of the New Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Blood Lead Reference Value.” [In eng]. American journal of public health 104, no. 6 (2014): e27-e33.

  1. Rooney, Andrew A., Abee L. Boyles, Kyla Taylor, Kembra L. Howdeshell, Vickie R. Walker, Michael D. Shelby, and Krishtina A. Thayer. “Ntp Monograph on Health Effects of Low-Level Lead.” [In eng]. NTP Monogr, no. 1 (Jun 2012): xiii, xv-148.

  1. Cassidy-Bushrow, A. E., A. R. Sitarik, S. Havstad, S. K. Park, L. F. Bielak, C. Austin, C. C. Johnson, and M. Arora. “Burden of Higher Lead Exposure in African-Americans Starts in Utero and Persists into Childhood.” [In eng]. Environ Int 108 (Nov 2017): 221-27.

  1. Sampson, Robert J., and Alix S. Winter. “The Racial Ecology of Lead Poisoning.” Du Bois Review Social Science Research on Race 13, no. 2 (2016): 261-83.

Learn more about the Black Agenda


Despite being the agricultural experts at the end of Slavery, Black farmers have been historically excluded from agricultural programs.

Black Business

Black America requires investment in business, economic uplift, and employment. Learn more.


For decades, Cannabis was used to incarcerate a disproportionate number of Black Americans.
Repair starts here.

Economics & Labor

Wealth is a major predictor of all outcomes in the US including education and health. Therefore, Black America's decline in wealth must be addressed.


Educational inequalities for Black America must be addressed systematically.

Environmental Racism

Polluted environments harm our communities in America. Learn about our solution to address this issue.

Health & Nutrition

Health is a part of wealth. Our communities have been deprived of access to adequate healthcare for centuries. This inequality must be addressed.


Redlining and subprime lending practices exacerbated the lineage wealth gap. This inequality must be addressed.


Widespread Immigration has been used to suppress Black mobility for decades. We want to provide a more ethical pathway to citizenship.


The government provides grants for road and public transit projects, utilities, and a host of other capital expenditures. Black America must have access.

The Justice System

Black America has faced unequal outcomes from the justice system for centuries. We want to change current outcomes to more equitable ones.

Voting Rights

Our voting rights are a key tool in our right to self-determination. Black America's right to vote must be protected in order to have true democracy.

Without these measures being instituted, ADOS are locked out of the country our ancestors built during chattel slavery. Without reforms through transformative government, we will be left to continue living a third world life in a first world country.

Couldn’t find your answer?